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New moms keep it natural

Earth Mama Angel Baby specializes in organic pregnancy and baby products
by: Ellen Spitaleri, Earth Mama Angel Baby operations manager Lisa MacKenzie, left, and founder Melinda Olson look at hand-processed teas in the company’s Clackamas warehouse.

Melinda Olson, the founder of Clackamas-based Earth Mama Angel Baby, has an unusual title. She calls herself mama in charge, and she is not kidding.

Her company makes pregnancy, childbirth and baby products that are certified organic, and she is a firm believer that 'pregnancy is not an illness - it is a wellness.'

To her, pregnancy and childbirth are natural processes, and many of the common occurrences, like morning sickness, 'don't need to be medicated.'

The motto of Earth Mama Angel Baby is 'Gifts from the earth for your gift from heaven,' partly because, as Olson said, 'Our foremothers used plants to care for themselves and their babies.'

Olson is quick to point out that there is a time and place for traditional medication and traditional doctors, but she also believes that women today are becoming more attuned to natural and organic personal care products, especially during pregnancy.

'If there is ever a time when women appreciate and embrace organic products, it is when they are carrying life, and that makes perfect sense,' she said.

Salves, soaps and teas

'I didn't set out to start a business,' Olson explained, but then she realized that she had a product line.

Before she started Earth Mama Angel Baby, Olson 'had the luxury of spending a lot of time learning about plant medicine from teachers. And then people came to me and I started making salves, soaps, tinctures and teas' using pure ingredients.

'Every single product I made [in the beginning] was [specifically] made for a person' who requested it, Olson said.

After more than three years of research and formulation, Earth Mama Angel Baby was born in 2002 in Olson's garage. Soon it outgrew its birthplace, and two and a half years ago Olson moved the company to its present site in a warehouse in Clackamas.

The location is centrally located for Olson and her 12 employees, and it is a place that feels like 'home,' she noted.

She added, 'I could not do this by myself. My husband, Don, graciously quit his job and works here, as does Bob, my brother-in-law. I have people working here since the garage.

'We have the best customer service. We answer every e-mail the same day and we talk to women who want to be informed about our products.'

Customers can buy Earth Mama Angel Baby products on line, and they can type in their zip code to determine where the nearest store is that stocks the products. In Clackamas County, the best bet is New Seasons in Happy Valley and Nordstrom stores.

The company has gone international, shipping products to Asia, Canada and even Turkey, and Olson noted that many hospital gift shops and spas stock the products as well.

Products unique

Olson said that she saw a need for products of this kind, through her own personal experience, both as a mother and as a medical professional, and through stories she has heard, where pregnancy was treated as an illness.

'There are no [other] companies that I know of with a whole product line' of pregnancy and pregnancy-related personal care items, Olson noted.

'We have a whole line for labor and one for breast feeding, as well as c-section recovery and a line for women who have lost a baby,' she said.

In addition to having 'a broken heart,' Olson said, women who have lost a baby still have gone through a host of physical changes, like 'hemorrhoids, breast milk and a swollen uterus.'

Earth Mama Angel Baby offers a baby-loss recovery kit that includes appropriately labeled products dealing with the physical aspect of loss of an infant, including a specially formulated tea.

'We want to support them physically as well as emotionally. [Sometimes] people don't talk about [the loss of a baby] and that's too bad. Our Web site has a forum page for women to support each other.

'We also wrote a page with suggestions about what to say [to a woman who has experienced the loss of a baby.] People can be well meaning, and their intentions are good - so we give them suggestions about what to say,' Olson explained.

She added that she or one of her employees handwrites a message to accompany the baby-loss kit.

Organic-certified

'Another thing that is special about our company is that the facility is certified organic for hand-processing teas, and all our personal care products are certified,' Olson said.

The USDA is 'doing its best to certify personal care products,' but a new organization called Oasis will soon be the certifying body 'for making sure that raw materials are not just safe and organic, but sustainable,' she noted.

Earth Mama Angel Baby is 'manufacturing products for the most vulnerable population on the planet, so we want to make sure we produce the highest quality personal care products and teas.

'Our number one concern is safety, and number two is efficacy. It doesn't make sense if it is not sustainable,' Olson added.

Not to BRAG

Olson's company was recently awarded the BRAG (Business Recycling Award Group) award from Clackamas County's Business Recycling Program for recycling, reusing and composting as much of its waste as possible.

All the products are vegan. In the candles, for instance, the company uses candelilla wax, not beeswax.

'We use organic olive oil and organic herbs, shea butter and essential oils,' Olson added, noting that she uses a 'preservative system that is an organic extract of herbs.'

All the teas are USDA certified as organic and kosher, she noted.

The gift kits packaging and containers are recyclable or reusable, and the company recently switched to PET plastic containers from glass, because the hard plastic will not leach into the products with essential oils, and it is recyclable.

'We used to put our salves in glass,' but safety issues caused concern, and Olson decided that plastic is 'safer in a diaper bag.'

Exciting prospects

The cosmetics industry is doing a good job of keeping up with the demand for safer products, Olson said, adding that educating the public about ingredients is key.

The Earth Mama Angel Baby Web site has specific ingredients for each product produced by the company, and Olson urges consumers to check lists of ingredients, whenever they buy personal care products.

As far as the future is concerned for her company, Olson said 'we have a lot of mamas asking us for things - we have a lot of exciting projects.'

She is currently seeking a way to produce a 'safe sunscreen for pregnant women and infants, but we won't do it until we can do it safely.'

Olson added, 'Our customers are everyone from pregnant women to those who care about them and those who nurture them. The first person you tell when you are pregnant is your mother. When you have common discomforts you talk to your mother, and she has answers. She will take the best care of you.'